YouTube and Google services disrupted in Venezuela following Zambrano ambush

Platform disruptions affecting multiple online platforms including YouTube, Google apps, Android backend servers and Microsoft Bing have been detected by the NetBlocks internet observatory on state provider ABA CANTV (AS8048), starting 5:00 a.m. UTC (1:00 a.m. VET) Thursday 9 May 2019 the morning after an armed ambush targeting National Assembly Vice President Edgar Zambrano.

Update: Access has been restored as of 7:55 a.m. UTC (3:55 a.m. VET):

The disruption lasted three hours and followed public outcry and international condemnation of the politician’s detection.

As reports of the ambush emerged, Venezuela’s National Assembly alerted the public to the crisis through social media platforms and supporters began a vigil.

Restrictions typically target prime time public appearances and early morning platform blocks are comparatively rare, with two recorded incidents of similar scale:

  • 7 March 2019: The morning before Venezuela’s first national power grid failure, YouTube was unavailable for over 20 hours
  • 30 April 2019: Multiple services were restricted for a prolonged period amid a popular uprising

Streaming services were previously restricted while Juan Guaidó made a statement on the situation of Zambrano on 3 May 2019. The politician is among a group accused of conspiracy, rebellion and treason by Venezuela’s Supreme Court, following an attempted uprising on 30 April.

The NetBlocks web probe chart shows overall reachability of the affected platforms across Venezuela, based on network performance measurement data collected from 20 vantage points across the country.

 

Internet censorship in Venezuela has become increasingly pronounced in recent days, with a series of major disruptions during and after the uprising of April 30 2019.

NetBlocks studies in recent days have produced technical evidence of targeted censorship targeting political activist Leopoldo Lopez and a meeting of oil industry workers.

The new disruptions show the continuation of ephemeral, or intermittent internet censorship imposed by the state appearing to target critical speech. Data are consistent with previous targeted disruptions during public appearances by Juan Guaidó, and during sessions of Venezuela’s National Assembly. Connectivity returns when adversary Nicolás Maduro and his officials address the population.

Venezuela saw a remission in ephemeral network filtering during the nationwide power outages through March. News media and campaign website filters remained in place throughout that period and intermittent censorship resumed even as much of the country remained offline due to chronic power grid failures.

Past incidents of network filtering in Venezuela have lasted from twelve minutes to over twenty hours, when YouTube was restricted hours before the country’s first nationwide power outage. Network data indicates that the platform disruptions are consistent with methods used to block online content in Venezuela.


NetBlocks is a civil society group working at the intersection of digital rights, cyber-security and internet governance. Independent and non-partisan, NetBlocks strives for an open and inclusive digital future for all.

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